A few days ago, while in a class I was taking for myself, a friend of mine and I began talking about spotting during turns. We were watching a few dancers in the class and observing who spots well, how they spot, and what the results were for their turns.
As you might expect, the professional ballerinas had intensely sharp spots and their turns were clean, regardless of how many they performed. Then we looked at the "old" pros, the retired dancers. They too had sharp head spots.
But the amateur dancers - no matter how wonderful they were otherwise - did not have that spot. Indeed, we take a class that is primarily for advanced dancers so the students have a lot of skills. Some of them can do 3 and 4 pirouettes, but they manage to do them without that sharp spot.
What is this spot we're talking about?
--The focus does not waver or get distracted.
--The chin is lifted slightly.
--The eyes are wide open, not downcast.
--The shoulders move independently of the head.
--The neck is relaxed, not rigid.
--The head stays in one place and the body moves below it.
One of the reasons pros have this sharp spot is from performing on stage. And it is of paramount importance safety-wise! On stage, the lights can blur your gaze as you turn so if it's not fixed beyond the audience, you can get dizzy and fall or knock someone else over. Pros practice turning in studios and on stage with an audience in mind so they are always dancing "beyond themselves." This stage work is an advantage they have over non-pros.
But you can have this spot! First, it goes without saying that you need to practice - a lot! Second, follow the guidelines I noted above. And third, utilize alternate turn techniques that will get your head moving quickly. I like to have students do very fast chainee turns across the floor, starting with their arms outstretched and then pulling them in tightly to spin faster and faster. This forces a fast spot. My friend, who teaches young children mostly, asks her students to bourree in a circle around themselves and spot the mirror. You can do this at home when you are in the bathroom brushing your teeth!
The most crucial component of a fast head spot is relaxation. If you approach a turn in an anxious manner, your chin will pull back into your chest and you will turn very stiffly. Relax, mentally and physically.
And my second bit of info for my local dancers: on Thursday, Oct 4th and Friday, Oct 5th, I will have a sub for my classes at Le Studio in Pasadena. Due to family visiting, I am actually taking two days off to spend with them (shocking, I know!). So on Thursday, I'm talking about my Pointe 2 class at 5:30 and Int Ballet at 6:30; on Friday, it's my Teen Ballet at 4:30, Stretch at 5:30 and Beg/Int Ballet at 6:30. Otherwise, I am teaching ALL of my other classes this week, including Wednesday morning and evening, and will be back in the studio in Pasadena bright and early for Basic Ballet at 9AM on Saturday morning.